Locals jump on equestrian pursuits

10:52, March 04, 2010      

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A college student learns the difficult art of how to get on a horse at a riding club in Changping district last year. Li Muyi for China Daily

Riding is becoming an increasingly popular activity among Beijing urbanites.

High society, the rich and famous, business and political leaders, if these are the only people you expect to find at a horse riding club in Beijing, think again.

As Wu Gangfang, press official of the China Equestrian Association, explained, horse riding is not an exclusive sport for the upper class, but a popular and fashionable activity that appeals to many in Beijing.

"Horse riding in China cannot be called the noble sport, but then neither is it a sport for poor people. People from many walks of life enjoy it, which makes horse riding a national sport here," Wu said.

Chu, a newcomer to the ranks of horse riding devotees, explained why she liked riding.

She started to learn to ride several months ago and admitted that she was following the trend to join a riding club, because "riding a horse is very elegant."

"It's popular among many of my colleagues and the price is reasonable," she said.

It is not only adults, kids are also eager learners. In some clubs, there are even special horses and trainers for "small riders".

Li Hang, 13, is a relatively experienced rider. She started to learn to ride in October 2007, and she now has all the basic skills, including halt, walk and pivot.

"Even when she was just two years old she loved sitting on the back of camels and horses. She is stronger than many of her classmates due to riding a horse and we have supported her passion for horse riding," said her mother.

Her mother also said that Li could spend a whole day with the horses at the club, even skipping lunch to be with a horse. "

"She brushes its hair and pets its neck and she can spend hours just talking with the horse. The stable is quite dirty but she doesn't care at all," said her mother.

According to statistics from the China Equestrian Association, there are about 100 horse riding clubs in Beijing (including private ones). Although the sport has been warmly received in Beijing, compared to the sport in western countries, it is still in its infancy.

The Sunlight Valley Horse Riding Club, located in the Yanqing county valley, is the largest indoor equestrian club in Asia.

"The club is hard to sustain just on teaching horse riding. We are now surviving mainly on horse breeding," said Zhao Jiping, manager of the club.

According to Zhao it takes more than four years to train a young horse, at a cost of around 40,000 yuan on average.

Zhao is also a referee at equestrian competitions, and he said the horse riding industry is still developing in China. For most Chinese people in urban areas, it is a fashion rather than a culture.

"In Europe, horse riding is a mature industry and a part of life for many people. In Australia, there are more than 200 horses in competition. But in the Chinese mainland, there are no more than 30," he said.

"In Northwest China, more than 100,000 people spend their daily lives with horses. Riding is not just a hobby but also way of life to them," said Wu. "But for the rest of China, it will take time to familiarize them with the sport."

Source: China Daily(By Yang Wanli )
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